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15 years later, the trial begins

The last known person to see Kaelin Glazier alive will stand trial for her murder today in Jackson County Circuit Court.

William Frank Simmons, 31, long has been the primary suspect in the death of the 15-year-old Ruch teen more than 15 years ago, according to District Attorney Mark Huddleston, who will prosecute the case.

Kaelin disappeared on Nov. 6, 1996, after reportedly watching a movie with Simmons on Johnson Road in Ruch. Police were unable to make headway in the case until her remains were found in 2008, and Simmons was arrested in April 2010.

Simmons has remained in the Jackson County Jail without bail since. If convicted, he faces a life sentence in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.

Police said Simmons lived with his grandparents on Johnson Road at the time of Kaelin's disappearance. He and the girl had watched a movie together when she stopped by the house on a walk from her nearby home to the Applegate Christian Fellowship for a youth group meeting, police said.

In the weeks following Kaelin's disappearance, investigators wondered whether the South Medford High School sophomore could have run away. Searchers combed the rural neighborhood's hillsides and sought national attention for the missing girl.

No sign of Kaelin was found until April 8, 2008, when a man working on his property discovered Kaelin's remains in a field just across Haven Road from where Simmons lived in 1996.

Simmons has a criminal history dating to 1998, when he turned 18, with convictions for first- and second-degree theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, identity theft and delivery of methamphetamine, court records show.

His murder trial, which has been postponed multiple times by his defense team, will be presided over by Judge Benjamin Bloom. It was originally assigned to Judge Tim Barnack, but defense attorney Andy Vandergaw requested Barnack be removed because his years as a prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office could potentially make him biased.

A 17-page questionnaire on the case was sent earlier this month to 600 potential jurors by lawyers on both sides, a rarity in Jackson County court history. Vandergaw and fellow defense attorney Michael Bertholf attempted to block the Mail Tribune from gaining a copy, but Bloom ruled it was a public record.

The document listed no specific questions about the case, but asked potential jurors whether they had attended a public memorial for Kaelin and whether they had ever been represented by Simmons' defense team.

Court Administrator Bob Kleker said the last time such a form was mailed to potential jurors was before the murder trial of Robert Acremant, who was convicted of murdering two women in Medford in 1995.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert is co-counsel for the prosecution. On Monday, Heckert declined to speculate on how long it may take to select a jury in the Simmons case.

"Jury selection (is) difficult to predict," Heckert said. "(We) have to see how fast or slow the parties are moving."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

William Frank Simmons is seen on a video screen during his arraignment on a charge of murder on April 8, 2010. - Jim Craven